This week, NRDC’s Action Fund launched a web-based video in which Leonardo DiCaprio, Edward Norton, Justin Long, Emmy Rossum, Forest Whitaker, Jason Bateman, Chace Crawford, Felicity Huffman, and Cornell West urge people to tell their senators to support clean energy and climate legislation.
We are hoping the video will appeal to young people, not only because they are the bread and butter of the climate movement, but also because they have a powerful role to role in the mid-term elections.
We want senators running for reelection to know that if they want young people to vote for them, then they need to pass the clean energy and climate legislation that will secure a safer, cleaner future for this generation.
I mean, let’s face it, if we don’t start confronting the climate crisis now, these young people are going to bear the brunt of costly storm damage, heightened security risks, and a nation that will have fallen behind China and the EU in the clean energy marketplace. Their future is at stake here.
It is no secret that the youth vote played a huge role in November 2008. But what we saw in the off-year elections and the special election in Massachusetts is that young people aren’t energized to go to the polls when Obama isn’t at the top of the ticket.
Young people are feeling disenfranchised. That doesn’t mean they vote for a challenger or a member of another party. They just stay home. In Massachusetts, 58 percent of young voters supported Martha Coakley, but only 15 percent of them turned out to vote, compared to 57 percent of older voters. We all know how well that worked for Coakley.
That is why senators --Republican and Democrat--running for reelection should galvanize the youth vote. And one of the best ways to do that is through climate and energy issues.
After all, environmental issues have always mobilized young people. If you look at all those photos from the first Earth Day, you don’t see old faces in those pictures; you see young people.
Young people are more apt to dream big and believe in their ability to improve the world. And that youthful confidence dovetails with environmental politics: we dare to expect better, to say we can get this done, whether it is preserving a piece of land or preventing catastrophic climate change.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the clean energy and climate movement. Most of the major groups, from 360.org to 1Sky to Energy Action Coalition, are run by people under 30. The visuals from the Copenhagen climate talks show that the foot soldiers are just as young.
These people know that this isn’t about dreaming big; this is something we can do. They don’t have hang ups about the OPEC oil crisis and Jimmy Carter’s sweaters. CFL light bulbs and hybrid cars are routine to them. They know renewable energy works, they we can be less dependent on dirty fuels from despotic nations, and most of all, they know green jobs may be the best opportunity they have in the worst employment market in decades.
As for as these young activists are concerned, this is our moment.
Leo will never cease to be hot.